FC Levadia Tallinn are celebrating winning their eighth Estonian title – and first since 2009 – with two games to spare, following a 3-0 win against top-division debutants FC Infonet.
Two years ago, Levadia coach Marko Kristal and his assistant Indrek Zelinski shed their most experienced players and banked on youngsters, mostly from the club's academy. It proved to be a success, though ironically one of their oldest players – 23-year-old Igor Subbotin – helped push them over the finish line, scoring twice in the win against Infonet.
"Our clear commitment to play young guys has brought results," said the 40-year-old Kristal, capped 143 times by Estonia. "To be honest, I hoped that we might have been able to win it last season, but we missed out. Our lads have been dreaming about this and they did everthing I asked of them during these two years. Now we should set new targets beacuse these young players are ready to progress."
Seven times an Estonian title winner, former FC Flora Tallinn man Kristal has taken the crown for the first time as a coach, and said: "It's very nice to become a champion, irrespective of whether you are player or coach. I would like to be able to win as many trophies as a coach as I did when I was a player."
Levadia's faith in their youth team, and the wisdom of their coaches – who made 246 international appearances between them – proved to be major factors in their success, along with the signings of two internationals, midfielder Aleksandr Dmitrijev and defender Dmitri Kruglov.
"I am glad that I came home," said former FC Lokomotiv Moskva and FC Torpedo Moskva player Kruglov, who had been at FC Rostov prior to signing for Levadia. "But I still believe that thanks to my good performances in Estonia I will be able to move abroad again." Kristal added: "Dmitrijev and Kruglov are very valuable players for our team, but even before they joined us the lads were playing really nicely."
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